Loreen Koubek of Eurosweep Chimney Service says all flues – whether a gas water heater, an oil furnace or a fireplace – should be evaluated and swept yearly.

With winter approaching, there’s no better time to get your fireplace in working order. Curling up by a roaring fire is the perfect antidote to the cold. To ensure your chimney isn’t blocked with debris or other obstructions that could threaten your family’s safety and damage your home, call in the help of a chimney sweep.


“All flues that are in use, whether that’s a gas water heater, an oil furnace, or a fireplace, should be evaluated yearly and swept to ensure proper draft,” said Loreen Koubek, director of administration at Eurosweep Chimney Service in Braintree, Mass.


Even if your chimney is free of branches and animal nests, a year of wood burning will leave byproducts called creosote that can be combustible.


One way to prevent water, branches, and leaves from getting into your chimney and blocking smoke is by installing a chimney cap, says Gerry Shedin, owner of Four Seasons Chimney Service in Stoughton, Mass.


Although building codes in the state call for houses to have caps, many older buildings have never been properly outfitted. Buying one will set you back $100 for a single flue, but it’s a good investment because most chimneys deteriorate from the inside out, a process that’s accelerated by exposure to debris and precipitation.


Another tip for ensuring the long-term of health of your fireplace is to burn seasoned hardwood, like oak or maple. Only use wood that’s been cut, split, stacked and dried, and steer clear of soft woods like pine, which result in more buildup.


Evaluations and cleanings by certified chimney sweeps cost between $100 to $200, depending on the size of the flue. A good sweep will also be able to tell customers if their chimneys have any structural damage.


“The biggest mistake people make is when they try to do it themselves,” said Malcolm Gurney, owner of The Fireplace Connection in Weymouth, Mass. “It’s alright if you buy proper equipment and get some instruction, but you should still have a professional come by every third or fourth year.”


Brent Lang may be reached at blang@ledger.com.